Is it too early to start planning your basketball viewing for late August? Nah! And after looking over the 2010 FIBA World Championship schedule released yesterday, i’m already feeling anticipation for a bunch of matches in this year’s Europe-heavy tournament.
The official BallinEurope-recommended dates and games Europe needs to mark on its collective calendar include:
• Saturday, August 28
Russia vs. Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico has a reputation as a giant-killer, so here’s a basketball giant for them (although with a FIBA ranking of 10 and many trips to the podium in Americas-based tournaments lately, maybe the island is the secret giant).
Additionally, if the clichéd and tiresome “Group of Death” sobriquet must be named for this tournament, it’s Group C. Excepting China, any of the remaining five teams here (joining Russia and Puerto Rico are Cote d’Ivore, Greece, and Turkey) could advance and even go deep into the bracket, so every game counts. And this is a key one early.
France vs. Spain. So Tony Parker thinks “the draw is not too bad” for France, eh? Well, start with this fairly certain loss, if Eurobasket 2009 is any indication, and then get set for round two which has…
• Sunday, August 29
…France vs. Lebanon. As everyone’s sentimental favorite and big question mark versus team that just got rolled by Spain? Already the gamblers are looking at the odds on this game. (And if Lebanon upsets Canada in game one? Whoa, Nelly!)
• Tuesday, August 31
Greece vs. Turkey. Here’s a pairing certain to live up to confirming the “Group of Death” label. A loss in this game could well send one of these two to the lower ranks of Group C.
Spain vs. Lithuania. Does Spain dash Lithuania’s hopes again?
• Wednesday, September 1
Iran vs. USA. OK, so this one doesn’t feature European teams; broadcast on a Wednesday, this should be the most-watched sporting event worldwide.
Beyond the sure-to-be-hyped political implications (hey, if the media blew it up for the 1998 World Cup, they’ll do it here), this will also mark the first time Iran – well unknown beyond Hamed Haddadi – faces the beast in international play. Here’s to thinking that Iran becomes recognized worldwide as a basketball power in the ‘10s, and this game could be a history-in-the-making-type sports moment. Of course, when this one goes down to the final USA possession and Kobe gets the ball, it might look like one of these or this or…
Lithuania vs. France. Certain to be a battle for position as the tournaments get set. Same goes for the next one.
• Thursday, September 2
Greece vs. Russia.
Serbia vs. Argentina. Ultimately the revelation of Eurobasket 2009, Team Serbia will have one more year experience when they take on the South American machine. Here’s one nice way to exit the first round at the Worlds: with an upset of FIBA’s no. 1 overall (giggle).